According to Gmail, I started writing this in December of 2007. I had this (fairly ambitious) idea to write an Elizabethan drama about intra-racism/colorism. This was the beginning. The Piner is the narrator. The heroine is Melaina, a name of Greek origin, which actually means dark or black. Saffronia is her romantic rival. I got that name from Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” The apex of their love triangle is Caleb, a nobleman who is bethrothed to Saffronia but in love with Melaina.
She shan’t believe, though it be trusted babble
for in belief may all her dreams unravel.
And yet the kindly courtesans did bare it to the fore:
Believest he that fair Saffronia loves him more?
She hath beguiled him so, fluttering her gossamer lashes
and pouting her lips, pressed crimson with the dew of pomegranates.
How can such a girl as I fare well in the minefields of his affection?
I am black, as Solomon’s prize, but no Niger queen am I.
The shadows retreat at my footfall, for I am darker even than they
and more ominous, some would say…
would that my breasts were like twin gazelles
that he would swoon as I neared, fawning as David’s son
would that my eyes shone as emeralds, that he would declare myself his One.
No, even now, he resides e’ermore with she
upon whose pillow he likely fits and stirs
oh, delicious sleep, how I envy you his company!
I loathe the very thought of you, Saffronia,
gilded temptress, yet worthy rival be.
by my word, my caste, and all my adoration
I shall suss out the root of his love for thee.
Later in the narrative, Melaina, completely lovesick, indignantly storms Saffronia’s palace after discovering her households new policy of having all visitor bare their wrists. If their skin is darker than burlap, they are bared entrance. Caleb takes to the window, unaware of Melaina’s business at the palace, but overcome at the sight of her just the same:
Caleb paces at the foot of Saffronia’s bed, where she lay sleeping fitfully.
Her gild grows sallower by each languid hour.
How she bores me, this acrid heiress
with no brilliance nor charm to speak of.
Look at her there, lolling about like a slug-
drooling a trail to her likely vapid dreams.
She sparks within me nothing.
Nay, she sparks within me passion,
though she be not my passion’s target.
The citizenry hath quite rightly endorsed her.
She is fair, and of pleasant stock. They are not wrong to herald her thus.
And yet there is something most coarse about her.
She saunters about with an air of virtue unearned,
sniggling at the ribald humor of passing sailors,
baring the bounties of her corset when they should be kept under shawl,
swinging her gates open far too eagerly whene’er I come to call.
I do no more love her than a mare loves its ticks.
(to the window)
But be still, heart. It is the dark jewel Melaina
who pricks men’s souls and peers within.
She-ah, she… must be guarded against,
This stealer of secrets and knower of vice
In what world could I earn her,
whose virtue withstands every barter, any price?
* * *
What I’d like to know from you, if you managed to muddle through this, is:
1. Is this any good?
2. Should I resume work on this, over a year later?
3. Could you see this in production?
4. Is the language even remotely believable?
I love Shakespeare, hence the project, but found sustaining a neo-Shakespearean voice really difficult as time wore on. Part of me thinks I should return to this and flesh it out, just to see what comes of it. Another part of me wonders if it was working at all–and without encouragement in either direction, my discipline just… stalled. So if you’ve got feedback, good or bad, I’ll take it, kindly.